● A tale of two articles – one bashing cycling, the other praising cycling.

Two articles about the same subject on the same date. One argues that bicycles cause a lot of harm and should be banned, the other says cycling is good and helps keep cities moving.

One article is written by someone who styles himself as one of Canada’s leading environmentalists, but is a global warming skeptic and an admirer of Donald Trump politics. The other is written by someone who purports to be nothing more than what he is, the commissioner responsible for encouraging more people to walk and cycle in London, England.

Which article to believe?

The anti-bike rant by Lawrence Solomon is largely premised on the absurd notion that it is good public policy to provide for a person in a 2 ton car that takes up to 100 square feet, rather than a person riding a bicycle. Without any supporting evidence, he claims bicycles consume more road space than they free up. If you doubt the absurdity of this, click here.

But Mr. Solomon doesn’t stop there. Through a convoluted thought process, he somehow wants people to believe that cyclists are responsible for the exhaust fumes emitted by cars. He also argues that money spent on large cycling projects is “staggering”, and points to the costs of building 9000 bicycle parking spots in Amsterdam. If this is staggering, then the cost of building 9000 parking spots for cars would have to be utterly mind boggling.

He goes on to argue that cyclist are a threat to pedestrians, even though it’s collisions involving motor vehicles that kill or injure thousands of pedestrians every year. He berates cyclists for being a burden on the cost of asphalt and maintenance, despite the fact that cars obviously cause far more wear and tear of roads.

While Mr. Solomon’s anti-bike tirade may not survive the slightest degree of critical thinking, there is a method to his madness. He layers on more and more absurdities in the hopes that readers will lose their reference to reality, and his statements will take on an air of normalcy.

More importantly, Mr. Solomon is really writing to his “base”, or in this case, his audience. He is telling them to stay-the-course, to hang on to their view of a car centric society where bicycles should not take up any public space except in niches and out of the way places. He’s giving them exactly what they want to hear, pure and simple.

Published on the same date is an article written by Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner. It refutes Mr. Solomon’s tirade on almost every point (although his article was obviously not written in direct response to Mr. Solomon’s).

In it, Mr. Norman talks about a recent independent study that examines the causes of traffic congestion in London, and makes recommendations for reducing it. The results undermine those individuals who promote the idea that cyclists are somehow responsible for a lot of this congestion. In fact, the study recommends that cycling along with walking and public transport should be prioritized over private vehicles.

The most damming piece of evidence he brings forth, from Mr. Solomon’s point of view, is that “At peak times, [London’s] new cycling infrastructure moves an average of 46% of people along the route despite occupying only 30% of the equivalent road space”. These numbers are only expected to grow in favour of cycling as more people start using bicycles to go to work. None of this should be particularly surprising given that traffic engineers usually figure that a road that can carry 2,000 cars per hour on average can handle as many as 14,000 bikes.

In closing, it is worth noting that while Mr. Solomon’s article is nothing more than an effort to shore-up those who hold anti-bike opinions, it does highlight a relatively new tactic of blaming cyclists for traffic congestion and motor vehicle pollution. In this regard, it has similarities to the fake news syndrome popularized by Donald Trump, insofar that it seeks to shape public opinion with assertions that have no basis in fact, and that are not supported by any real evidence.


Share this with others:

2 Comments on ● A tale of two articles – one bashing cycling, the other praising cycling.

  1. Thank you for this rebuttal. Much appreciated. One issue that keeps recurring, understandably in fact, is the “scofflaw” attitude of many cyclists which is central to Mr. Solomon’s previous writings on this issue. He clearly has a desire to see people respect traffic regulations. Let’s take a look at those dictating rigid adherence to traffic laws, the effort it takes to do so, the compliance rates and the risks to self and others. Firstly, sitting in a climate-controlled, entertainment-enabled vehicle, encased by glass, metal and rubber, vision and hearing are impeded and the effort to slow down, accelerate, stop and start is done through simple effortless pedal motions. A cyclist on the other hand must generate the effort physically and usually tries to maximize results. Vision and hearing are much clearer and approaching a stop sign or traffic light, one has every reason, exposed as one is, to listen and look carefully. Not everyone does of course and the irritation about this is much less related to danger to others, than the lack of perceived respect for the most basic of regulations. Ok, we get it, but the hectoring tone is a bit much. Try watching a stop sign for a period of time and you will note about 90% of the vehicular traffic does not come to a full stop as they must by law. Watch the traffic on any road for lack of signals, speeding and the like, all of which I am sure our virtuous Mr. Solomon is guilty, offended as he is at the lack of respect for basic regulations by cyclists. Not to justify bending and breaking rules. Well, maybe to justify bending them, but definitely to reject Mr. Solomon’s über-virtuous perception of his position in society which allows him to disdain those making effort to move themselves around, at more risk to themselves than anyone else, particularly when compared to those in motor vehicles, engaging their pedals while listening to their entertainment in their enclosed environment. He truly does protest too much and from a position of little credibility. That being said, however, I did appreciate reading such an enjoyable counterpoint to the self-appreciation we cyclists oh so readily indulge in. He makes you think about that for sure, with unusually ridiculous conclusions however on how we should organize our cities. The role of the car should remain (cyclists benefit from that infrastructure obviously) but primacy must be given to people and their self-propelled means of locomotion as well as public transit. In respect to cost, nothing, but absolutely nothing, compares to the roads, highways, bridges and the like which were built with little consideration for foot and bike traffic. That is now being fixed and to good effect. It costs money and it is a lot, but, again, nothing like the outlays for motor vehicles.

  2. will always be the tail of two cities… what gets me is that people that drive to/from work sitting in traffic every day are the first to complain about taxes. Yet, the massive infrastructure required for everyone to sit in traffic every day during rush hour (everyone wants on the infrastructure at the same time) is costing us a fortune. Thus, cyclists take up probably less than 2% of the required infrastructure. Huge savings right there. And, the destruction done from an incident is typically less serious. I’ve yet to read in the media/papers about a cyclist that ran over someone and killed them or a drunk cyclist has killed a family etc… its pretty tame in comparison. But, of course typical human stupidity, we love to blame and shame others for our own gains – so why not blame humanities ills and laziness on a cyclist, its easy to do… and the narcissistic fools will make you believe it too… Anyhow, if more people cycled, we’d have less congestion, probably less health issues, more people being aware, and pay less taxes… instead, what we have is a world that wants more push button laziness, more concrete to house our lazy ways, and more big infrastructures which of course just brings more big debt and taxes…. incredible how stupid the human race can be at times… blame and shame games…

Leave a comment